While my command of the English language is redoubtable—well, adequate—my knowledge of Spanish is weak. I’ve read very little Latin American literature, and understood very little of what I’ve read.
There is one story, however, I will never forget.
Juan León Mera, the man who wrote the lyrics to Ecuador’s national anthem, penned a story titled “Porque Soy Cristiano,” which translates to “Because I Am a Christian.” I had to read it for one of my Spanish classes in middle school.
It’s the story of a man whom a military officer treats brutally during one of South America’s many civil wars. The officer eventually cuts off the man’s arm with a machete and abandons him. Many years later, the officer is injured (or becomes sick; I don’t recall exactly) and is rescued by a one-armed peasant.
Of course, the peasant is the man whom the officer had maimed years before. Although he recognizes the officer, the peasant chooses to care for him instead of exacting revenge. When the officer learns the identity of his rescuer, he’s staggered.
“Why have you helped me?” he asks.
The peasant replies, “Because I am a Christian.”
It’s only a few words, but it’s enough. Everyone understands. Christian means forgiveness. Christian means compassion. Christian means love—not romantic nonsense, but a simple resolve to treat other people decently.
Things have changed.
To many people today, Christian means hypocrisy. Christian means superstition. Christian means homophobia, prejudice, legalism, ignorance, arrogance and prudishness. Christian means spending an hour sitting in church every Sunday.
Many followers of Christ have abandoned the word Christian due to its negative connotations. I don’t blame them, and yet I don’t agree. I think the word Christian can be redeemed. How can we redeem it? What can we do?
Do we even have to ask?
Let’s redefine Christian. Better yet, let’s stop redefining it. Its original meaning was awesome.
Why do I read those boring prophecies and genealogies in the Bible? Why do I refrain from lying and swearing and being an Internet troll? Why do I even try to treat other people with kindness and respect?
Because I am a Christian.